When Glen Campbell performed at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre in November 2012, the concert came at the tail end of a lengthy farewell tour after his announcement that he has Alzheimer’s disease.
Campbell, flanked by a band that included three of his children, would occasionally ramble in his comments and grow disoriented. But his singing and the legendary guitar skills that made him an essential, pre-stardom session musician on records by Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector and the Beach Boys were intact.
The new documentary “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me” reveals that the star’s final concert, four nights later in Napa, Calif., was a much rougher affair. But, as in Seattle, his devoted audience knew what to expect and, as with his fellow musicians on stage, extended patience, support and unconditional love.
“I’ll Be Me” follows that 2012 tour and the goodwill and emotional sophistication that surrounded it. Directed by James Keach, the film makes clear that Campbell’s shows were positive for both artist and public, culminating in a national conversation about Alzheimer’s in Congress.
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Interspersed with Campbell performing the likes of “Wichita Lineman” and “Gentle On My Mind” are glimpses of his medical treatment and increasingly challenging life at home. Throughout, Campbell largely exhibits grace about his memory problems, though Keach does capture other typical Alzheimer’s symptoms, including paranoia.
Campbell now lives in a long-term-care facility. But in 2012, Keach was tightly focused on his subject’s waning clarity, at the price of not devoting fuller appreciation in “I’ll Be Me” to Campbell’s complete legacy in popular music. Despite that, this is a portrait of a star gaining luster even as his mortality becomes more evident.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org